Galloping Success for Kirkwood

Kip Elser’s Kirkwood Stables bucked the trend for speed at the under-tack preview Monday and instead offered five juveniles specifically purchased as yearlings with the intention of only galloping prior to the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale.

Three of the five sold Wednesday, with a colt by Noble Mission (GB) (hip 2) starting off the afternoon selling for $120,000 to Caves Farm. Bloodstock agent Dennis O’Neill purchased the final offering from Gulfstream Gallop LLC when he bid $100,000 to take home a filly by Blame (hip 137).

In between, a filly by Data Link (hip 26) brought $65,000 from Martin Racing Stable. Colts by Exchange Rate and Liaison were bought back.

Elser purchased all five as yearlings last year on behalf of an undisclosed client. “I think we had a good solid day,” Elser said after congratulating O’Neill on his purchase.

“It was an experiment. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for a very brave man who wanted to try something, I won’t say completely new, but certainly something that hadn’t been tried recently. He’ brave. He doesn’t cry when he loses, he doesn’t crow when he wins. He just loves the game. I think it was a very worthwhile experiment and I think we can build on in it from here. I think we’ll do it again next year.

O’Neill has had plenty of success buying at 2-year-olds sales. He purchased subsequent GI Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist (Uncle Mo) for $400,000 at the Fasig-Tipton sale in 2015 and paid $35,000 for 2012 Derby winner I’ll Have Another (Flower Alley) at the OBS April Sale.

After signing the ticket on the galloping Blame filly, who was a $30,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Turf Showcase, O’Neill said, “It goes back to how they move. She moved really good down the lane and I really liked the way she galloped, as strange as that might sound. We probably stretched a little bit. We were thinking $70,000 or $80,000. But she’s a really pretty filly and we’ve had luck with Blame fillies. So we thought we’d give it a shot.” O’Neill continued, “Kip let them roll a little bit- it wasn’t like it was a nice easy gallop. They were going pretty good. So you got to see how they were going to go. Which is the big thing for me, just to see their action. She was rolling pretty good down the lane.”

Of the concept of skipping furlong breezes in favor of gallops, O’Neill added, “I have mixed feelings on that. I tend to feel like an eighth of a mile at this point, is not going to hurt them. We bought two Derby horses that worked a decent eighth and they never took a bad step in their whole career. We=ve had a lot of success buying at the 2-year-old sales and had very few problems out of it. I don=t think an eighth of a mile is that much to ask.”

Elser said he has received plenty of positive feedback on the idea. “There have been a tremendous number of people who have wished us luck and said, I hope it works for you because it might help us broaden our market down the road.”